LONDON ¿ Oxford Gene Technology Ltd. said it would renew its search for licensees of its DNA microarrays after the European Patent Office (EPO) found in its favor following a six-year opposition to its European patent.

The patent was contested by Affymetrix Inc., Abbott, Roche and four others, but, according to OGT, it emerged almost unscathed after a three-day hearing at the EPO in Munich earlier this month. The company introduced amendments to the patent to limit its coverage to arrays of oligonucleotides covalently attached to a smooth impermeable surface, and these were accepted.

OGT, of Oxford, said the patent, originally granted in 1994, still covers most of the arrays currently on the market. Ed Southern, founder of OGT and inventor of the patent, said he was pleased with the breadth of the claims. ¿This has been a long process, but the decision greatly strengthens the patent, and we intend to pursue the many licensing opportunities with renewed determination. It has always been my aim to make this technology as widely available as possible.¿

Affymetrix reached a settlement with OGT in April under which the companies agreed to drop all outstanding lawsuits in the U.S. and the UK, and end opposition proceedings against each other¿s European patents. However, Affymetrix¿s written arguments were still before the EPO. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

OGT¿s current licensees include Affymetrix, Rosetta Inpharmatics (now part of Merck) and Incyte Genomics.

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